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This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available. 

CONFIDENTIAL SECTION 01 OF 03 CAIRO 004005 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL : 05/26/2015 
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PHUM EG 

SUBJECT: REFERENDUM MARRED BY LOW TURNOUT AND REPORTS OF 
VIOLENCE 



Classified by A/DCM Michael Corbin for reasons 1.4 (b) and 
(d). 



Summary 



1_1 . (C) The May 25 referendum on revising the Egyptian 

constitution to allow for direct presidential elections was 
characterized by low turnout. Although the process was 
generally peaceful, there were sporadic incidents in Cairo of 
government-directed beatings of opposition protestors and 
journalists. The GOE will have no qualms about claiming a 
popular mandate for reform on the basis of the referendum 
results, although it had not yet announced the results as of 
1545 hours local time on May 26. We believe, however, that 
the gratuitous attacks on protestors and 
journalists — including what multiple sources have 
characterized as cases of sexually humiliating assaults on 
women — raise serious questions about how the GOE plans to 
conduct this year's elections. We received a number of 
reports of irregularities, including NDP pressure on an NGO 
to boost the vote in one district, and the ability of 
individuals to vote multiple times. These issues are 
illustrative of the many challenges that Egypt will have to 
overcome if the upcoming presidential and parliamentary 
elections are to be accepted as legitimate by Egyptians and 
the international community. End summary. 



Attacks on Kifaya Demonstrators and Journalists 



± 2 . (C) There were multiple eye-witness reports, by wire 

services, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and the 
Christian Science Monitor among others, that pro-government 
thugs, perhaps including undercover security personnel, 
attacked several groups of demonstrators affiliated with the 
Kifaya movement ("Enough,” formally known as the Egyptian 
Movement for Change) . Although the assaults did not appear 
to have been delivered with lethal intent, multiple sources, 
including AP reporter Sarah al-Deeb (who confirmed her 
experience in a phone call with poloff on the evening of May 
25), reported that the thugs' attacks appeared to focus 
particularly on abusing and sexually humiliating women 
protestors and journalists. 



Anecdotal Evidence Suggests a Modest Turnout 



1[3 . (SBU) The referendum on amending Article 76 of the 
Egyptian Constitution, to allow for direct presidential 
elections, was staged on May 25. Polls opened around 9:30 
A.M. local and closed at 7 P.M. Poloff 's tour of three 
polling stations in central Cairo around midday revealed a 
light but steady stream of voters at two, but the third was 
station was deserted, except for a handful of police and 
election officials. At a polling station close to the U.S. 
Embassy, a TV crew was on hand, filming several members of 
parliament who had gone in to cast their votes. Posturing in 
front of the camera, a man carrying a Mubarak placard urged 
several persons standing nearby to join him in a chant "Yes 
to Mubarak! Hero of peace and war!” 

1[4 . (SBU) Observers and other contacts agreed that turnout 
was low. Most Egyptians we spoke with who went to vote told 
us the polling stations they visited had relatively few 
voters. A veteran journalist contact estimated that 
"actual" turnout was around 30 percent, but conceded this was 
a hunch based on anecdotal information. The journalist 
attributed low turnout more to apathy than to the calls of a 
coalition of opposition parties, the Kifaya protest movement, 
and the Muslim Brotherhood for a boycott. The official 
Middle East News Agency asserted that downtown Cairo was 
"exceptionally crowded" on May 25 and traffic jams were 
common. Some observers explained the relative quiet by a 
desire on the part of many prospective voters to steer clear 
of potential clashes between the opposition and GOE security 
forces. Comment: The GOE has stated that it has 32.5 

million eligible voters on its lists, but most analysts 
believe that these numbers are unreliable due to poor record 
keeping, including a pressing need to clean the lists of 
long-dead voters. End comment. 



15. (SBU) One creative Egyptian TV reporter broadcasting 
from the Qalubiya governorate assured viewers that a high 
turnout in the cool early morning hours was sapped by the 
day's heat, "which rather reduced the number of voters." 
Government-controlled television and radio interrupted most 
of their regularly scheduled programming with special 
referendum coverage, with a focus on urging all Egyptians to 
vote. Commentators on GOE-controlled media criticized the 
opposition calls for a boycott. Television showed various 
leading NDP figures, such as NDP Secretary General and Shura 
Council Speaker, Safwat Sherif, casting their votes. 



Tireless Get-out-the-vote Efforts 



1.6. (SBU) If indications of low voter turnout are proven 
correct (and it will be difficult to ever calculate, with 
reliability, actual turnout), it will not be because of a 
lack of GOE effort to mobilize voters. Egypt TV Channel One, 
which draws by far the highest audience in the country, had 
included for the two days before the referendum a graphic in 
the corner of the screen with the slogan "participate with 
your vote." A huge number of banners had sprung up on 
buildings, bridges, and signposts around town, many 
proclaiming "Yes to the referendum! Yes to constitutional 
reform, " but many more simply stating "Yes to President 
Mubarak, leader of development, progress, and peace", etc. 

Old habits die hard, and many precinct bosses and local party 
officials clearly see referenda simply as "Yes to Mubarak" 
events . 

17 . (SBU) An enormous banner emblazoned with a slogan 
exhorting passers-by to "participate with your vote" covered 
the decrepit high-rise building overlooking the Qasr an-Nil 
bridge. A number of state TV talk shows hosted guests who 
talked about the civic responsibility to participate in 
referenda. GOE and pro-government media commentators 
strongly attacked proponents of a referendum boycott as 
"purveyors of passivity - discouraging citizens' 
participation in public life." 

1.8. (SBU) The GOE ' s "get out the vote" effort extended from 
media efforts to much more mechanical and practical 
processes. Strolling by the Ministry of Health, the Taxation 
Authority, and the Ministry of Justice, poloff saw thousands 
of government employees granted early leave streaming out of 
their buildings and into buses heading to polling stations 
around midday. The atmosphere was festive, and many had 
apparently been provided Egyptian flags and pro-Mubarak 
pennants and placards. 

19. (SBU) On the evening of May 24, immediately prior to 
referendum day, President Mubarak addressed the nation on 
government television. Mubarak urged the Egyptian people to 
vote. Egypt, said Mubarak, is in "a decisive moment in our 
contemporary history and we should all bear the national 
responsibility, which this moment imposes on us honestly, 
honorably, and impartially." President Mubarak, along with 
Mrs. Mubarak and sons Alaa and Gamal, welcomed by Interior 
Minister Adly and Cairo Governor Abdel Azeem Wazeer, cast 
their ballots early on the morning of May 25. 

110. (C) We gleaned insight into some of the GOE ' s 

get-out-the-vote mechanics from the head of an NGO focusing 
on women and community development, who also happens to be 
NDP chief for her small district in Giza. She was advised by 
the party that she would be responsible for getting a "good 
turnout" in her district. After reaching out to as many 
women as she could think of in her district, exhorting them 
to come vote and to bring their families, she duly rented a 
small fleet of buses which picked up the voters, delivered 
them to polling stations, and then took them back home. When 
we inquired whether the NDP had paid for the busses, she said 
with surprise, "no, the party can't pay for such things... I 
used funds from my NGO for this." (Note: According to the 

NGO Law 84/2002, Egyptian NGOs are banned from direct 
participation in political activities. End note.) 



Referendum Logistics and Supervision 



111. (SBU) According to the official Middle East News 
Agency, Egyptians cast their votes in a total of 329 central 
public polling stations, which were supplemented by an 
additional 54,350 sub-stations. Interior Minister Habib 
al-Adly told MENA that the GOE ' s security services, 

"operating under the full supervision of the judiciary, " were 
monitoring the polls. According to Justice Minister Mahmoud 
Aboul Leil, vote counting would be under "full judicial 
supervision." The Justice Minister asserted that 1,225 
judicial officials, including 703 women from the GOE ' s 
litigation and administrative prosecution boards, took part 
in supervising the referendum. 



Civil Society Representatives Not Convinced 



1[12. (C) At a lunch hosted on May 25 by the Charge for key 

civil society contacts, most noted that they had not voted 
and had no plans to do so. All, including the few who had 
voted, expressed cynicism and skepticism about the GOE ' s 
direction of the process. Notwithstanding their criticisms 
of the referendum process, all of the civil society activists 
said that they remain committed to pushing for political 
change in Egypt and are optimistic that has embarked on a 
reform process from which there is no turning back. The 
activists all welcomed Embassy Cairo's continuing engagement 
with and support for Egyptian civil society. 



Comment 



1I_13. (C) As of 1545 hours local time on May 26, the GOE had 

not yet announced the result of the referendum, though we do 
not anticipate that there will be a significant number of 
"no" votes. Insofar as we anticipate debate about the 
results, we think that the focus will now shift to a likely 
GOE claim of high voter turnout, which will be loudly 
contested by the opposition in light of the considerable 
anecdotal evidence to the contrary. The opposition will 
likely seize on the low turnout as evidence of the success of 
their "boycott." Should the remainder of Egypt's election 
year be characterized by the same GOE domination of the 
electoral process, along with the attendant issues of voter 
apathy and violent harassment of demonstrators and 
journalists, as seen in the May 25 referendum, the GOE will 
be hard pressed to persuade the international community and 
its own people that it is committed to genuine poltiical 
reform. End comment. 



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GRAY